U.S. Edition 400 DIE AS IRANIAN MARCHERS BATTLE SAUDI POLICE IN MECCA
400 DIE AS IRANIAN MARCHERS BATTLE SAUDI POLICE IN MECCA; EMBASSIES SMASHED IN TEHERAN
By JOHN KIFNER, Special to the New York Times
Published: August 2, 1987
CAIRO, Sunday, Aug. 2— More than 400 Moslems died when clashes broke out Friday between Iranian Shiite Moslem pilgrims and Saudi riot policemen in Mecca, Islam's holiest site, Saudi Arabia announced Saturday.
After hearing reports of the deaths, Iranians rampaged in Teheran, attacking the Saudi and Kuwaiti Embassies there. Some reports said four Saudis had been abducted from the embassy.
Iranians were also reported to have stoned the French Embassy and to have torn down the French flag over the building's entrance, in an unrelated dispute with France.
In Mecca, the street battles beside the Grand Mosque came on the eve of the annual pilgrimage, or hajj, which marks the high point of the Islamic year. Support for Iraq
While Iran is controlled by radical Shiite Moslems, the rulers of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are conservative Sunni Moslems who support Iraq in its nearly seven-year-old war against Iran.
The clashes come at a time of growing tension over the gulf war, rising Islamic fundamentalism and United States efforts to escort Kuwaiti oil tankers through the Persian Gulf. The violence in Mecca raises the possibility of open conflict between Shiite Moslem forces and Sunni Moslem regimes.
The clashes began when Iranian pilgrims massed after Friday's midday prayers for a political demonstration, which is forbidden by the Saudi authorities. The pilgrims chanted ''Death to America! Death to the Soviet Union! Death to Israel!'' and brandished portraits of their leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. There are 155,000 Iranian pilgrims among the more than 2 million Moslems, mostly Sunnis, at the pilgrimage. Iranian and Saudi Statements
Official Iranian statements said the Saudi riot police then opened fire on ''an innocent demonstration.''
The Saudi Information Minister, Ali Hassan al-Shaer, speaking after a special Cabinet meeting called by King Fahd, said the deaths were caused by trampling and insisted that ''not a single bullet was fired.''
Whatever caused the violence, fragmentary reports from the scene spoke of fighting going on for hours. Slippers, shoes, identity cards, scarves and even wheelchairs littered the streets after the clashes, according to reports from Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency.
The Saudi television tonight broadcast a 15-minute videotape in which Iranians were shown throwing rocks at the police and then charging into them.
An official Saudi statement said 402 people were killed, including 275 Iranians, 85 Saudi citizens and security men, and 42 pilgrims of other nationalities. It appeared likely that Shiites from Lebanon and Pakistan may have joined the Iranians in the demonstration. The Saudi statement said 649 people were wounded.
The Iranian press agency reported that 200 Iranians had been killed and more than 2,000 wounded. It said the Saudi police opened fire on a ''peaceful march'' with automatic weapons and tear gas.
Earlier, the official Saudi press agency said only that ''some fell'' when police moved in on Shiite demonstrators who were burning cars and fighting with other pilgrims.
Saudi Arabia, whose royal family adheres to a puritan line of the majority Sunni branch of Islam, repeated Saturday that there was a total ban on ''demonstrations, rallies or any kind of marches.''
Like most leaders in the Arab world, the rulers of Saudi Arabia have supported Iraq in its war against Iran, which began in September 1980. '2 Glorious Demonstrations'
Teheran has sought to export its brand of Islamic militancy to other Arab nations.
Ayatollah Khomeini's personal representative in Mecca, Hojatolislam Mahdi Kharoubi, had called for ''two glorious demonstrations'' in the city to help spread Iran's militant doctrine.
The Ayatollah's designated successor, Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri, declared that Moslem religious leaders should wrest control of Islam's holy sites in Saudi Arabia from the royal family.
But in Iraq, the ruling Revolutionary Command Council, ostensibly an organ of the secular Baath Arab socialist movement, declared that Iranians should be barred from Islam's holy sites. Fires Are Started
The Iranians who stormed the Saudi and Kuwaiti Embassies in Teheran smashed furniture and started fires. They threw pictures of King Fahd from the roof of the Saudi Embassy and smashed air-conditioners. At the Kuwaiti Embassy, the intruders set fire to documents.
Iranian officials declared that maps had been discovered showing that Kuwait had been spying on behalf of Iraq. No diplomats were in either embassy at the time of the attacks. [ In Washington, an official in the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Saturday night by the Saudi Embassy there that his Government condemned the violence committed at the Saudi Embassy in Teheran and denounced the Iranian authorities for failing to prevent the incident. [ ''The kingdom considers this attack a violation of all laws and norms, as well as a contradiction of Moslem ethics,'' the statement said, ''and demands that the Iranian authorities interfere immediately to promptly return the four embassy employeess who were brutally attacked and those detained or kidnapped by the authorities in Teheran.'' ] At midday, a crowd burst into the French Embassy and pulled down its flag. France is embroiled in a dispute with Iran over an interpreter who refuses to leave the Iranian Embassy in Paris. He is wanted by the French police for questioning about in terrorist activity.
France and Iran have put each other's embassy under siege. A French fleet is on its way to the gulf. Tension Is WidespreadNext Page >